One of the best things to do in Australia is to hop in the car and go for a drive. Once you leave city traffic behind, do what Natalie Gruzlewski did and go where the road takes you.
Her drive began in Melbourne and she headed vaguely east. With her favourite music playing and no particular place to go, she decided to stop in the Yarra Valley.
Healesville in the Yarra Valley was a good place to stop for a snack. She spotted hungry-looking people heading into a building and decided to follow. They obviously knew about Giant Steps Vignerons and Innocent Bystander Winemakers and its reputation as being the "mecca of all things great".
At 10.30 in the morning, it wasn't exactly the time to enjoy their wines, although there's no law against it! As you enter, the waft of fresh coffee and pastries being baked in the open kitchen make you glad you stopped by. They have an ever-changing menu starting with breakfast on weekends and holidays, cheeses, woodfired pizza and breads people drive kilometres to enjoy.
When you do get around to tasting the wines, they are bound to impress. Giant Steps make chardonnay, pinot noir and merlot and Innocent Bystander specialises in shiraz, sangiovese, pinots noir and rose, chardonnay, pinot gris and pink moscato. Taste, buy, order and join in a tour of the winery.
A little further on, Natalie couldn't resist stopping in King Valley, Victoria's answer to the Mediterranean. Italian migrant families established wineries producing prosecco, nebbiolo, dolcetto, arneis and many other varieties from the old country.
The Dal Zotto Estate is one of those family operations, headed up by Otto and Elena Dal Zotto and their story began in Valdobbiadene, a winegrowing area in north-eastern Italy.
Natalie joined the family in a game of bocce and to taste their wines. She also learned about their La Famiglia Wine Club. Family is close to an Italian's heart and they love nothing better than being together at the table.
La Famiglia is for members who enjoy wine, food, friends and family. Quarterly tasting packs with latest release information, access to limited and museum wines and the chance to join the Del Zottos throughout the year for special dinners and events. It's also a good opportunity to admire Elena's stunning gardens. If you would like to be part of the family, log on to their website, www.dalzotto.com.au, and become a member of something special.
Big Ned Kelly
A drive without seeing a "big something" just wouldn't be an Aussie drive.
Glenrowan, scene of the Kelly gang's last stand, is home to the Big Ned Kelly. Standing outside the post office, the 6m-tall statue is just as he was captured near the town in 1880, with charcoal armour, heavy mask and rifle in hand, tall and defiant. Kate's Cottage is a replica of the Kelly homestead, right down to furnishings. They also sell two different Ned Kelly snowdomes.
Ryley Motor Inn
Not far from the heart of Wangaratta, the family-run Ryley Motor Inn is a welcome place to pull in for the night. Set back from the road, it has everything you could need barbecue facilities, pool, television and guests can order continental or a full-cooked breakfast. Meals from nearby restaurants can be delivered if you fancy eating in.
Related video: Yarra Valley lunchtime!